By Jonathan Smith
Sporting philosophy: “I want my family to get just as much out of my success as I do”
‘Legend,’ ‘Oracle’ and ‘The Queen of Canoe’ are just some of the descriptions of Jeanette Chippington, MBE, given by her fellow canoeists. With 12 Paralympic medals in swimming, a KL1 gold in Rio 2016, as well as a boatload of international paracanoe championship medals, it is easy to see why.
However, while the mother-of-two is proud of all she has achieved since making her Paralympic debut at Seoul 1988, she doesn’t prioritise winning over her family and personal life.
She explains: “I love competing, but the competition and the winning side of it isn't the most important thing, there has to be more to it than that. My medals in swimming and when I won gold in Paracanoe in Rio are moments that will be with me forever and I feel so privileged that I've experienced that, but I hope it doesn't define me. The whole time I've been competing, it's been very much about my family’s and friends’ involvement and I want them to get just as much out of it as I do and enjoy the moments and enjoy that process.”
It is this family involvement that leads Chippington to identify Rio as her proudest moment in sport, as it was the first games that her children, Ben and Ria [now 21 and 19], were old enough to appreciate and support her.
Chippington, too, is grateful for her family’s support after losing her father, David, to COVID-19 in April 2020.
“When my dad passed away we were in lockdown and it was such a shock, but it kind of helped that we as a family were all together and I think that helped me to process it. It's weird, having never gone through losing a parent before, you sort of think you’re coping with it and then you just have the odd moment later on, even a year later something will happen and you just think ‘Oh gosh,’ you know, you really miss them.”
Chippington also takes solace in knowing that, after attending all six of her previous games, her father will be watching on from somewhere.
“He'd just be so proud of the fact that I'm going to Tokyo, but I know that he'll be up there and he'll be watching and just be incredibly proud,” she says.